Retirement Wealth Advisors Review 2022 - MagnifyMoney
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Retirement Wealth Advisors Review 2022

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Retirement Wealth Advisors is a fee-only investment management and financial planning firm headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As its name suggests, Retirement Wealth Advisors primarily serves individuals focused on retirement. As the firm has a relatively low minimum investment requirement of $25,000, most clients are non-high net worth individuals.

The bottom line: Retirement Wealth Advisors is a firm focused on retirement planning, portfolio management and various other financial planning services.

  • Uses algorithms to create portfolios
  • Serves mostly non-high net worth individuals
  • Fee structure isn’t entirely clear until you’re a client

All information included in this profile is accurate as of August 11, 2021. For more information, please consult Retirement Wealth Advisors’ website.

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Overview of Retirement Wealth Advisors

Retirement Wealth Advisors, a firm offering portfolio management and financial planning, is principally owned by Jason Wenk, who founded it in 2005. The firm has close to 200 employees serving as investment advisor representatives and overseeing its more than $2 billion in assets under management (AUM). Additionally, most of Retirement Wealth Advisors’ employees are licensed agents of an insurance company or agency.

A look at the founder of Retirement Wealth Advisors

Jason Wenk, a former Morgan Stanley employee, is the founder of Retirement Wealth Advisors. Wenk was especially affected by observing the stock market crash following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. “I saw firsthand what that did to people,” he is quoted as saying on his website. “It ruined retirements. It was devastating to a lot of people.”

This inspired him to create his own portfolio models and to found Retirement Wealth Advisors. Wenk was awarded GRBJ Newsmaker of the Year in 2016 and 2017 in the finance category, and was named an EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018. He is a serial founder in the investment world, with three companies to his name: Retirement Wealth Advisors, FormulaFolios and his latest endeavor, Altruist.

Retirement Wealth Advisors’s pros

  • Fee-only model: Advisors at Retirement Wealth Advisors do not earn commissions for selling securities or products to clients, which means they do not have a financial incentive to make certain recommendations. This eliminates potential conflicts of interest associated with fee-based models. That said, there are some associated persons with the firm who may receive commissions as compensation; this potential conflict of interest is discussed below.
  • No performance-based fees: Advisors do not earn fees based on the performance of your account; performance-based fees can lead advisors to make riskier investments in pursuit of earning those fees.
  • Tailored for retirees: Clients will find a variety of services that directly support the needs of retired and soon-to-be retired individuals, such as review and recommendations of insurance policies, estate planning and cash flow statements.

Retirement Wealth Advisors’s cons

  • Fee structure isn’t set: With fees ranging from 0.50% to 2.00% of assets under management depending on what a client negotiates with their advisor, it’s hard for potential clients to compare costs as they won’t know ahead of time what their rate may be. Many firms publish their fee schedule so that a client will know how much they can expect to pay before engaging with the firm.
  • Potential conflicts of interest: Retirement Wealth Advisors can recommend that clients utilize the services of a third-party investment adviser to manage all or part of their portfolio. Additionally, some investment adviser representatives are registered representatives of various licensed broker-dealers. There is a potential conflict of interest if a financial plan recommends the use of professional investment management services or the purchase of insurance or other products or services. This is because the advisor could potentially receive compensation for financial planning and the provision of investment management services and/or the sale of insurance or other products. It’s possible the client could obtain the same products or services from another provider. That said, the client need not accept any of the recommendations made by the advisor.
  • Automated portfolio management: Retirement Wealth Advisors uses FormulaFolios for portfolio management, which automates investments in the same way a robo-advisor would, but at the typically higher cost of an investment management firm. This isn’t necessarily a negative, especially as the firm also offers financial planning services, but people who are interested only in portfolio management might consider a robo-advisor or an advisor that doesn’t rely on automated investing instead.

What types of clients does Retirement Wealth Advisors serve?

The firm predominantly serves individuals who do not have a high net worth. (For reference, the SEC defines a high net worth individual as someone with at least $750,000 under management or a net worth of at least $1.5 million.) Its next-largest client groups are high net worth individuals and other investment advisors.

The minimum required account balance at Retirement Wealth Advisors is generally $25,000, although the firm does state that it may waive or lower the minimum requirement at its discretion.

Services offered by Retirement Wealth Advisors

As a firm that aims to serve retired or soon-to-be retired individual investors, the menu of options at Retirement Wealth Advisors caters to that audience. You’ll find portfolio management services and financial planning services, such as strategic tax planning and retirement account assessment and recommendations, as well as annuity stress testing. Retirement Wealth Advisors also offers variable annuity asset allocation (variable annuities are annuities that are tied to market-based securities and fluctuate with the market).

Here’s a comprehensive list of the services the firm offers:

  • Investment advisory services (discretionary and non-discretionary)
  • Financial planning services
    • Net worth statement
    • Cash flow statement
    • Review of investment accounts, asset allocation and repositioning recommendations
    • Strategic tax planning
    • Review and recommendations for retirement accounts
    • Review and recommendations of insurance policies
    • One or more retirement scenarios
    • Estate planning review and recommendations
    • Education planning with funding recommendations
    • Individual securities hold/sell recommendations
    • Mutual fund fee analysis
    • Annuity stress test
    • 401(k) optimization
  • Variable annuity asset allocation
  • Selection of third-party investment
  • Educational seminars/workshops

How Retirement Wealth Advisors invests your money

As a client of Retirement Wealth Advisors, your account will be managed by FormulaFolios, with an investment strategy that uses a mechanical approach to quantitative analysis. What that means is that investment decisions are recommended by algorithms most often based on mathematical modeling, statistics, market trends and other data. Think of FormulaFolios as a robo-advisor for your financial advisor, which is how Wenk, who founded and owns the company alongside Retirement Wealth Advisors, described it in an interview.

FormulaFolios offers both proprietary mutual funds and ETFs. Your investment objectives, risk tolerance and financial goals will inform how your money is invested among different tactical asset allocation strategies. Portfolio strategies used include:

  • Long-term purchases
  • Short-term purchases
  • Short sales
  • Option purchases and writing
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
  • Mutual funds

As an added feature, FormulaFolios uses a software called WealthGuard™, which tracks the performance of your portfolio and helps predetermine the amount of downside you’re willing to tolerate; if you opt in to the software, you’ll receive notification of market downturns.

Fees Retirement Wealth Advisors firm charges for its services

Asset-based fees: As a client of Retirement Wealth Advisors, you’ll negotiate how much you’ll pay with your advisor. Your rate will range between 0.50% to 2.00% of your assets under management. Factors that influence the rate you’re charged include the amount of assets under management, the range of investments in your portfolio and the complexity of your financial circumstances, to name a few.

Brokerage fees: Clients at Retirement Wealth Advisors will most often receive portfolio management service fees from either TD Ameritrade or FolioFN, the two brokerage firms Retirement Wealth Advisors most often recommends. Clients also have the option to choose an alternative brokerage firm if they wish and will pay the affiliated fees. With the FolioFN portfolio, there is an additional 0.10% wrap fee. All portfolios will have a third-party investment advisor fee of 0.10%; those with multimanager series allocations will incur an additional 0.10% fee.

Annuity asset allocation service fees: For clients who wish to use Retirement Wealth Advisor’s variable annuity asset allocation services, the fee is 1.25% for the VaR allocation series and 1.50% for Retirement Wealth Advisors multi-strategy allocation.

Additional costs: Clients who aren’t in a wrap free program are responsible for brokerage fees and other fees charged by the service provider; these fees are separate from fees charged by the firm as they come from the brokerage firm handling the trades for your portfolio, or from providers or managers of mutual funds, ETFs or other managed products.

A $50 fee is charged for accounts that have balances of less than $100,000; however, the fee can be waived at the discretion of the firm.

Financial planning fees: Financial planning services fees are calculated based on the scope and complexity of services you require. The maximum rate is $5,000. Financial planning services typically require a 50% retainer, which will not exceed $1,200. However, a retainer won’t be collected if the financial plan cannot be rendered within six months. Retirement Wealth Advisors does offer a satisfaction guarantee for its financial plans — if you’re not satisfied, the firm will not bill you for the plan.

Retirement Wealth Advisors disciplinary disclosures

Retirement Wealth Advisors does not have any disciplinary events to disclose in its Form ADV, paperwork all registered investment advisory firms must file with the SEC. Disciplinary disclosures include any criminal charges, regulatory actions or legal action against the firm and its advisors or affiliates in order to help prospective clients evaluate the company.

For more information on the firm, you can go to its IAPD page.

Retirement Wealth Advisors onboarding process

  1. Contact the firm: The first step in establishing a relationship with Retirement Wealth Advisors is to set up an initial consultation, which you can do by calling the firm’s main number at 800-903-2562 or filling out the contact form provided on its website.
  2. Meet with an advisor: In this first meeting, the firm will collect personal and financial information, such as your financial objectives, to determine the scope of your potential engagement with the firm.
  3. Move forward with an investment management agreement: If you decide to work with Retirement Wealth Advisors, you’ll receive an investment management agreement prior to the start of the relationship that outlines the services you’ll receive as well as the associated fees for the services.
  4. Get your portfolio created and any financial planning services: Your manager then will construct a portfolio based on your goals and objectives, and provide financial planning services if you choose that additional service.
  5. Stay in touch with your advisor: You’ll have regular contact with your advisor, which can include an annual meeting.

Where Retirement Wealth Advisors is located

Retirement Wealth Advisors has offices in the following states:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Is Retirement Wealth Advisors right for you?

For people planning for retirement who have at least $25,000, Retirement Wealth Advisors may be a good choice, with its retirement-focused offerings. However, because the firm uses software that amounts to robo-investing, a savvy client who doesn’t mind forgoing a relationship with an investment advisor could cut out the middleman and use a robo-investing platform themselves, potentially saving money in fees this way.

That said, if they want financial planning services as well, the firm could be a good choice.

Further, because Retirement Wealth Advisors does not publish a tiered-fee schedule, and instead leaves it up for negotiation between client and advisor, those who do not know what the industry standards are for fees may find themselves having to do their own cost comparison. Be sure to research multiple firms to ensure you find the right advisor for you.

The “Find a Financial Advisor” links contained in this article will direct you to webpages devoted to MagnifyMoney Advisor (“MMA”). After completing a brief questionnaire, you will be matched with certain financial advisers who participate in MMA’s referral program, which may or may not include the investment advisers discussed.